Preserving Traditions at Kerala Kalamandalam Deemed University for Art & Culture | India


Known for million other things but foremost of all, India is revered for being a land of innumerable and exquisite culture, subculture and tradition. Journeying from state to state, city to city and even from township to township, one can not only recognize the changing landscape of the country but also of its customs and traditional art forms.

Barbara Rotella and Jomie Naynes

Aside from the traditional-faithful handling over from one generation to the next, many of India’s cultural activists are ceaselessly encouraging young people to embrace their old-age heritage. One such method is the creation of Living Tradition schools that teaches students various Indian performing and visual arts.

Levy Amosin, Celine Murillo, Kara Santos and Gretchen Filart

During our #KeralaBlogExpress2, we visited one such institution known as the Kerala Kalamandalam Deemed University for Art & Culture in the small town of Cheruthuruthy in the city of Thrissur.

Sophie Gianan, Alyanna Bromeo

Named from the word Kala meaning art and Mandala connoting circle, the Kerala Kamandalam trains young students in Indian classical dances and theater forms such as Thullal, Kuchipudi, Mohiniyattam, Kudiyattam and the popular Hindu performance art the Kathakali.

Mujee Gonzales, Christian Sangoyo

These are dances that does not only require synchronized choreography, but it also entails expressive facial expressions, sinewy hand gestures (mudras) and fluid eye movement. For instance, in Kathakali, the dancer slash actor must display intense concentration because the dance doubles as an ancient martial art form of Kerala when performed.

Cara Consunji

Established in 1930 by the great poet of the Malayalam language, Vallathol Narayana Menon—after founding a society called Kerala Kalamandalam three years earlier—who raised funds for the creation of cultural school.

Karla Ramos, Audrey Trinidad

Following the ancient Indian education system called gurukula sampradayam that is based on residential tutelage, the Kalamandalam continuously provide training by housing both students with their teachers in order to master the many ancient Indian performance arts disciplines.

Mujee Gonzales and Christian Sangoyo
Kathakali performers. Photo from Kalamandalam website

The students undergo 8 years of studying and another 2 years to achieve a postgraduate degree. More than a third of the students in Kalamandalam are under a scholarship program by the Government.

Alex Dela Cruz, Ally Barzaga

After specializing in various Indian traditional dances, the students also learn about creating different costumes, applying make-up art and playing musical instruments.

Jamie Fournier

Thinking about their leaning set-up might appear as a hard undertaking. However, upon watching the students perform, I saw the passion displayed on their faces, their smiles as they perform and the way they change facial expression according to the requirement of a particular dance, they were able to pass energy to the spectators.

April Margaret Cuenca

This shows that they truly enjoy what they are doing. Maybe they know that the preservation of Kerala’s performance art culture resides in them and they all carry the badge of heritage warrior with pride.